The Process of Forgiveness- Learning to Forgive Ourselves


Peninsula Community Church

The Pathway to Forgiveness – Self Forgiveness

March 25, 2012

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Let me say that this study today only skims the surface of this issue. I would need to do another series in order to deal with every aspect of what it means to forgive ourselves and to let go of the past.

But, in the passage before us this morning, we find great hope in that God forgives ALL of our sin and He cleanses us from ALL unrighteousness. Notice here, there is nothing out of the reach of God’s grace and mercy. He forgives everything. His forgiveness is amazing but He not only forgives all our sin but he cleanses us from all unrighteousness. In Christ we are new creations that continue to be touched by His grace and His cleansing work within us. This is not to say that we keep getting saved over and over but rather after we have accepted Christ, Christ empowers us to live a victorious life through ongoing forgiveness of new sin and ongoing cleansing from new unrighteousness.

Let me illustrate what God does for us in this way. When we lived on Long Island, there were certain days of the week that people could put almost anything at the curb to be picked up on garbage day. As we would drive around Michelle had an incredible eye for pieces of furniture that were left by the curb but had potential to be made over. I remember on one occasion she saw this old cabinet by the side of the road. Of course, being the man I am, I did not want anyone to see me pick up the piece of furniture so I waited until it was dark and I returned and grabbed the piece off of the garbage pile. When we got the piece home, Michelle asked if I would remove off all the layers of paint. As I did that what was revealed was a beautiful piece of wood. It was, if I remember, a beautiful maple cabinet with awesome grains in the wood.

When we think about that is what God does for us. He redeems us off of the garbage heap of the world and he strips us of all of the years of pain, hurt and sin. And when we begin to be effected by those things He comes and continues to offer forgiveness and cleansing because He knows that underneath there is a beautiful vessel that can be used for His glory.

In this passage we should also note that the word confession means to come into agreement with God’s will and His purpose for us. It is interesting to note that in the Greek language of John’s day the word confession was actually a legal term which meant to come into agreement with. In order words, as we understand that God has forgiveness for us in every sin and every issue and that he not only forgives us but he also cleanses us to bring out the beauty that is hidden beneath, we will seek to come into agree with that and allow the Holy Spirit to do that work in us. It also means that we will recognize who we are and what God has called us to be as detailed in His word. We will see that and we will align ourselves with that work.

But in this life we have a dilemma. While we know that we have been forgiven and that we have been cleansed by Christ we often struggle with self forgiveness by way of an attitude of unforgiveness that is most often manifested by:

  • Shame-
  • Sense of Failure

We have all experienced the motion of shame. Have you ever tripped and fallen? What is the first thing that you do? I don’t know about you but I usually will stop and make sure that no one else is looking. Once I do that, then I look to see if I am hurt.

Shame and a sense of failure come from a fear that we will be exposed or that we will not be accepted and that people will look at us differently for what we have done. To be honest with you the emotions of shame and sense of failure are often a result of a legalistic environment or a sense of the negative pressure of being perfect. These emotions bring with them a deep sense of needing to present one’s self as perfect. As a result there is an intense fear of ever making mistakes or disappointing others. In terms of shame, in particular, there is also an intense sense of the inadequacy of one’s self or there is a sense that we are being judged by the probing eyes of others.

While guilt typically involves regret over a particular action or behavior, shame centers on one’s very being. The root of shame lies in the thought that there might be a sudden unexpected exposure of who we really are. The problem is that we believe that when we are exposed that we be revealed as a lesser person or as painfully diminished in our own eyes and the eyes of others. Therefore we become overly concerned and regretful about the mistakes we have made but in reality this mistake or sin has revealed something essentially flawed within us.

The result is that we attempt to be perfect in all areas of our lives as if when we become perfect we will no longer be vulnerable to shame. Rather than free us, these emotions tend to drive us into alienation and emotional bondage. But God wants us to live as authentic beings who love God and are willing to allow God’s forgiveness and healing to come.

But Jesus is ready and willing to forgive and to cle3anse us from all sin and unrighteousness. Jesus in essence enters into our shame, experiences its destructive consequences, and then triumphs over its power in the resurrection. We need Him to heal our unhealthy desire to be accepted and our unhealthy sense of wanting to be perfect. Christ’s coming to earth and his eventual death and resurrection represents God’s total immersion in humanity’s history of conflict and oppression.

If we do not deal with shame and a sense of failure it will destroy us.

How do we deal with this pain:

  • Read and meditate on Scripture
  • Memorize Scripture
  • Take every thought captive
  • Find an accountability partner

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